Big Ben’s bell goes silent for years of repairs

(AP) — Britain’s Big Ben has bonged the hour for the last time ahead of almost four years of repair work.

The giant bell atop Parliament’s clock tower rang out 12 times at noon London time, as parliamentary staff, lawmakers and passersby paused to listen.

The sound faded away to start what is scheduled to be the bell’s longest period of silence since it first rang out in 1859.

It is not due to resume regular timekeeping until 2021, though it will sound on special occasions such as New Year’s Eve.

The break will allow workers to carry out much-needed maintenance to the Victorian clock and clock tower. But some lawmakers have criticized the lengthy silence, calling Big Ben an important symbol of British democracy. They want the time scale for repairs tightened.